Bolton ended their 5-match winless streak in the league against midweek giant-killers Derby County thanks to an emotional goal from Craig Noone, celebrated with fellow scouser Stephen Darby.
The retired right-back was there to support his former team mates who treated him to a great performance full of the industry and passion that characterized his career. We may never have seen the best of Darbs but that didn’t make it any less pleasing to think we might have brightened his awful situation somewhat.
On the pitch the Whites were fantastic to a man and there were many interesting aspects of the performance worth noting. So, without further ado, here are my Five Things:
It’s more than fair to say that Will Buckley’s time at Bolton has been frustrating to say the least. The former Brighton winger has so often been maligned by the Wanderers faithful and it looked set to be another tough day at the office for him against Derby after he failed to capitalise on a shocking George Forsyth pass which found him one-on-one with Scott Carson. You would have expected Buckley to wilt but he picked himself up to put in a fantastic performance, topped off with a great assist for Noone’s back-post header. He might like a dive but when the referee is in a giving mood the fact he is so often felled provides numerous set-piece opportunities and also helps to relieve pressure. If he can continue to play with this kind of confidence that has so often been lacking in his Bolton career the absence of Sammy Ameobi won’t be such a hindrance.
Midfield stability over creativity
Joe Williams and Jason Lowe were outstanding yesterday as holding midfielders in that they won their tackles and battled hard to stop the likes of Craig Bryson and Mason Mount exerting their influence on the game. However, their lack of ability when it came to passing the ball was painful at times to watch. Williams was the biggest culprit with a huge number of attempted passes going astray. His poor display going forward was summed up late in the second half when he was presented with a fantastic opportunity to play new signing Christian Doidge through one-on-one. Williams elected to ignore the striker, probably with the misplaced passes still on his mind, and shoot wildly. It was a moment that could easily have come back to haunt us and the young Evertonian must improve this side of his game if he is to hold off Josh Vela to keep his first-team place.
The industrious Wizard of Oz
When Bolton recruited Erhun Oztumer it came across as a luxury signing. Andre Moritz was the kind of player who could conjure something out of nothing but contributed little to no work ethic. I thought Oz would be cut from the same cloth, but this performance proved me wrong. On numerous occasions the 5ft3 playmaker battled hard against Bradley Johnson and Bryson, often coming out on top. His footwork and passing remain good but this industrious side will help endear him to the Bolton fans even more. We look a much better side with him in it than out.
Game changing options
What has become apparent this season is that Wanderers have the capacity to change a game in their favour using their squad. Last season one felt that if the Whites couldn’t put out their best side week-in week-out then it would be almost impossible to secure results. What this victory proved is that we have corrected this issue. Stalwart Ben Alnwick missed his first game of the season but Remi Matthews, making his first ever Championship appearance, looked more than capable of filling his gloves, making one crucial save at the death to deny Mount. Doidge acquitted himself well when coming on for Super Josh Magennis and to be able to call upon the likes of Yanic Wildschut, Josh Vela and Gary O’Neil from the bench is hugely helpful. At long last Wanderers have strength in depth.
The end of Wheavers?
Until last week’s draw with Ipswich Town Phil Parkinson had always selected either David Wheater or Mark Beevers in his starting line-up with Beevers having played in 97 of his 100 matches before that game. The new-look partnership of Jack Hobbs and Wheater, however, looked a cut above against Derby County. Hobbs in particular was brilliant as he won almost every header he could and looked competent on the ground too. There have long been questions marks about Beevers’ competence at Championship level and given what we witnessed against the Rams, it may be a while before he regains his place.